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Marquette Golden Eagles at Villanova Wildcats Betting Preview

The no. 10 Marquette Golden Eagles can clinch the Big East championship and the top seed in the conference tournament Wednesday night when they visit the Villanova Wildcats. At home, the Wildcats are favored by 4.5 points.

Villanova, the reigning national champions, are officially reeling after a weekend loss to Xavier. The Wildcats have lost four of their last five games, a stretch that started with a 66-65 loss to Marquette. To be fair, all four losses during that stretch have come on the road. However, the Wildcats should be a team capable of beating average Big East teams on the road.

Meanwhile, the Golden Eagles are flying high. Since losing their conference opener, they’ve won 12 of 13 games. In fact, their only two Big East losses are both against St. John’s. At 12-2, Marquette leads the Big East and with a win on Tuesday can do no worse than tying Villanova for the regular-season title. At 23-4 overall, the Golden Eagles can also secure a no. 2 or 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a strong finish.

The Soaring Eagle

Junior guard Markus Howard has led Marquette all season and continues to be one of the most underrated players in the country. Despite being undersized at 5’11’’, Howard is averaging over 25 points per game while shooting 44% from the perimeter and 92% from the free-throw line, a spot he gets to seven times per game. During Marquette’s first meeting with Villanova, Howard poured in 38 points on just 24 shots, not to mention pulling down six rebounds.

Of course, Marquette is far from a one-man team. That being said, the Eagles aren’t particularly deep, getting little scoring from their bench. Brothers Sam and Joey Hauser are the biggest keys for Marquette. Together, they average 25 points per game in addition to being Marquette’s best rebounders. However, they combined for just four points in the first meeting against Villanova, which forced Howard to have an amazing game to get the Eagles the win. The Hauser brothers will need to do more in the rematch, especially with Marquette being on the road.

What’s Gone Wrong?

Villanova’s biggest problem during their current skid has been their outside shooting. The Wildcats are shooting 35% from 3-point range on the season, but they’ve been below that mark in four of their last five games. Villanova is also lacking a designated 3-point specialist, as everyone on the team is shooting below 40%, so it’s tough to know who to go to when they need to make a big shot.

Aside from the team’s shooting struggles, Jay Wright has pointed to his team’s youth and inexperience for their late-season swoon. It could just be that the loss of their top four scorers from last season is finally catching up with the Wildcats. Even senior leaders Phil Booth and Eric Paschall had only been complementary players until this season. Now they’re being asked to lead a team of mostly freshmen, sophomores, and grad transfers. That may be what’s keeping the Wildcats from winning games on the road.

No Sweet Home

The Wildcats have played much better at home than on the road during the Big East season. However, they are surely lacking confidence right now and playing a Marquette team that is confident that they can beat anybody (except maybe St. John’s). Villanova’s desperation may get them a win, but it’s hard to believe in them as a favorite. Bet on Marquette to at least beat the 4.5-point spread Wednesday night.

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